The "art" of forgiveness
I forget the exact timings now but it was certainly after I had been going to yoga for a few months or so and had brought Reiki into my life. I was sitting in an office in my new job, bored to tears, and very aware therefore of the constant chatter in my head that reminded me that all was not well in my world.
Those were very unsettled days of my life. I was in a relationship, but I knew it was not going to go anywhere in the long run but we were best friends and I wasn’t ready to let that go. But I had formed an inappropriate relationship with a director with whom I previously worked. It wasn’t sexual or anything like that, but I had fallen in love with his mind, or so I used to tell myself. He made me feel alive. He shared my love of the English language and he brought passion back to the written word.
We spent hours emailing or texting one another discussing the finer points of a sentence structure, or the placing of a comma or a word, and I realised soon that I was stepping into dangerous territory, clearly there were problems in his relationship as much as there were in mine. It was all starting to get a little complicated especially with office politics and other staff and it was quite obvious that it was time for me to move on and find another job – I was bored in the role in any event and the Universe intervened as it does.
I expected that we would continue to communicate but he shut me down just like that. Overnight. No more texts and no more emails. I was distraught. The worst thing was that I could not really tell anyone. Although of course I eventually did, because I was miserable and heart broken and I needed to come clean. Not that there was much to come clean about, “oh yes, I fell in love with my boss’ mind, we share a passion for the English language”…imagine how my boyfriend at the time felt, it is almost worse to have an affair of the mind and heart than an affair of the body. A cliché and yet not a cliché, the story of my life!!
Anyhow, there I was a few months later, still heartbroken and wounded and stuck. Yes, stuck in my life. I mean things had moved on, I had a new job, I was practicing yoga, I was attending a meditation class each week, I was training to be a Reiki practitioner, I had changed my diet, life was moving on, but there was a part of me that could not move on from this broken heart. Time may very well be a healer but I was getting resentful and resentment leads to bitterness which leads to illness – and I had already lost my gallbladder to this at the tender age of 21 over my bitterness of a childhood incident.
So I googled (as you do, or I do, when I know things need to change, something along the lines of “my heart hurts, I am angry, how do I make it better) and up pops some sites and of course I am drawn to one and there I find that answer that I did not even know I was looking for.
Now there was a new concept for me. Much like gratitude when I discovered that one, and blessings and joy and all those lovely words and sentiments that begin to appear in your life when you start treading the spiritual path.
Until that point I didn’t even really know what it meant. I mean I understood the word, but in terms of actually forgiving someone, how does one do that?! Well there it was in black and white and it was kind of one of those “ah ha” moments when I realised that the more I held on to the hurt, the more I was going to suffer whereas old Mr Boss man was perfectly fine and dandy carrying on his life no doubt sharing emails with some other poor unsuspecting soul instead.
So all that anger and resentment I was feeling towards him, all that wounded “I am a victim” stuff, was only wounding me. I was breaking my own heart with all that negativity while he was free!!
B***ocks to that!
So somehow or other – and it certainly was not easy – I gradually began to let go and forgive. And with that forgiving, well my life shifted pretty darn quickly. I was out of the black hole and back to life, reaching for the stars, my world became alive again. I moved on. I didn’t stay much longer in that job, it wasa stepping stone in my life, from the full time ladder climbing corporate role I was pleased to leave behind and into a world of travelling and yoga and angels and healing and writing and lightness and all things beautiful and uplifting. Phew.
So when I read this fabulous article entitled “The surprising things I learned from studying my brain on various forms of meditation for 7 days” and written by Vishen Lakhiani, which touched on the power of forgiveness, it all made such perfect sense to me as I could relate to it. Basically the study was all about the fact that even in meditation, one style does not always fit all and he was trying all sorts of techniques to deduce the effect they had on him and everyone else.
The guy who wrote the article was meditating in a chamber with his brain hooked up to a machine which recorded every peak and trough of his brainwaves as he meditated in different ways, so the researches could pinpoint exactly what was working and what was not working by actual bio-feedback.
One of the studies tested the power of forgiveness. The guy had to forgive every single person in his life who had wronged him from teachers to family members, however big or small. And the amazing thing they found was that each time he did a round of forgiveness, his alpha waves would spike. Now alpha waves are associated with high creativity, compassion, insight, forgiveness and love and we kind of want to create more of these waves in our life, well in the world generally, so this was pretty good research.
It follows that meditation, Reiki and Yoga all help us to operate more on this level, and it is fascinating to know (on a scientific level) that these waves increase each time we forgive someone. I mean it makes sense. I felt it, and I am sure many of you have felt it in your own lives, that peace that comes from the simple act of forgiveness.
Needless to say that the people behind the research project discovered that the single biggest factor to supressing alpha waves are holding on to grudges and anger. So if we want to feel lighter and have a greater sense of wellbeing, it is essential that we release every bit of resentment and anger from our whole being and system.
But how do you actually do this? Well I was wondering this myself again this week as a situation presented itself that made me realise I needed to forgive. Basically I caught myself feeling angry and irritated by someone as an annual event drew close, simply because I felt wronged by this individual at this event in the past.
After a few days of sulking and feeling miserable and being caught up in a “victim” behaviour pattern, I realised that it was exhausting and unless I learned to let it go and forgive it was going to continue to clutter my life each time the memory (of the event) was triggered. But how to do this?
Well I knew that it is essentially a fairly straightforward process - more on that later - but I also noticed a resistance on my part to truly let go and forgive the person or the event. I still felt so wronged and if I forgave, well wasn’t that saying to the other person – it is ok that your actions upset me and gave me heart ache?
So I did some google searching and came across this fabulous article by Thomas G Plante entitled “7 Rules of Forgiveness”, which appeared in the online addition of “Psychology Today”. This article suggests seven principles that may assist one in the art of forgiveness and include:
“1. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you have to forget, too. We don’t forgive and forget at all. People who have been terribly abused, neglected, and victimized don’t forget their traumas and they really don’t need to do so. They can learn to forgive, yet remember quite well.
2. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re minimizing your victimization experience. By engaging in forgiveness you aren’t saying “it’s okay…it wasn’t that bad.” Not at all! You can forgive yet still admit that the victimization and trauma was very real and very bad.
3. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’re a chump. Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, naivete, or foolishness.
4. Forgiveness doesn’t depend upon the other person apologizing and accepting your offer of forgiveness. Sadly, you cannot expect that the person who wronged you can fully understand or appreciate that what he or she did was wrong. They may never admit that they did anything problematic at all. That’s okay, because you can engage in forgiveness for your own benefit, not theirs. You don't need anything from them to forgive them.
5. Forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness isn’t an all-or-none, black-or-white kind of thing. It is a process. You may never be able to completely forgive another person but you can work to get closer to do so. You may never get to the 10 on my 10-point forgiveness scale, but you can turn a 6 into a 7 or to an 8.
6. Forgiveness is for your health and well being. Since research shows that holding onto anger is toxic for your health and well being, and since no one wants to be around those who are chronically angry, bitter, resentful, and unforgiving, then forgiveness is something that you do for you. It is in your best interest to forgive others for their transgressions, not necessarily theirs. You are not engaging in forgiveness to do them a favor, but to do one for yourself.
7. The secret sauce in forgiveness is letting go of anger. In my clinical practice I have treated many people who have been terribly victimized and traumatized by physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse. I have also treated many who have been abused by those who should have treated them the most kindly, such as parents, siblings, close friends, and even clerics. Those who do well and cope best in life are those who have found some way to forgive themselves and others. They have worked hard to let go of the anger and resentment and moved on. They don't forget and they don't allow themselves to continue to be victimized. They let go of the anger and choose to forgive (deserved or not).”
Well this article talked volumes to me. I knew all of it to be true, but one forgets in the humdrum of the pain and victimhood.
So I dig deep and I forgave. But how did I do this? Well if you google it I am sure you are going to find many different ways, because one size does not fit all and we have to find our own way. Vishen Lakhiani who I mentioned in the article above, found his own way that led to a spike in his alpha waves and you could try this. I will never know if my method had the same effect on my alpha waves, but I do know that I awoke the next morning feeling lighter, brighter, more positive and energised (well actually I felt tired, but in a ‘good, I have just released something’ kind of way as the weight dropped off my shoulders and chest!).
I chose to discuss the matter with a trusted friend who helped me to recognise that life has moved on since the initial event. I then re-lived the event in my mind so I could feel the effect in my body – the tight chest, the tight jaw, the edgy anger and the weight on my shoulders. I then took myself to mat and resolved that by the end of the practice I wanted to be ready to forgive.
When I finished my practice – having worked things through with my body and breath – I spoke to the angels and verbally stated that I now forgave the individual and the situation, not because I condoned the action, but because I did not want to suffer anymore. And then I opened my heart and I sent distance Reiki healing energy to the individual and to the event for extra healing and then I slept on it, and slept more peacefully than I had done for the week prior to then.
I am not sure that it is always that easy but I think you get to a point, like with everything, where you realise that enough is enough and it really is time to move on. Saying that, I know a few people in my life who continuously resist that point, and you can see it in their faces, and the way it impacts on their life so that they continue to play the role of victim, in fact they have become so used to playing that role, that they do not realise that there is another (happier and peaceful) way for them to be. But that is a whole other story and one left for another time.
So if you recognise that you have some forgiving to do in your own life, however large or small, then have a go, because that act of forgiving, however large or small, will be life changing in some way.